The Inaudible Audible

Flowering Pink Camellia

Imagine an early nineteenth-century glass house filled with camellias. Camellias placed there in the mid-1800s in the belief that the glass house replicated the best conditions for these Asiatic plants. Inside the plants flounder, sicken. Black aphids fester upon the leaves, buds of flowers die and drop off before they can flourish and bloom to their full beauty. The few that flower normally do so without the usual heavenly scent.

What are the camellias’ stories? What are the emotions felt by visitors to the glass house?

Wollaton Hall in Nottingham was built in the 1580s and it is home to the glorious glass house. Today the hall houses a natural history display and the grounds include a 500-acre deer park and stunning lake. The Camellia House is one of the earliest cast-iron glass houses in the UK and was built in 1827.

Wollaton Hall Camelia House
The Camellia House at Wollaton Hall Glass House

In a unique experiment in 2019/2020 musician, beatboxer, and composer Jason Singh was commissioned to create a musical composition using ‘biodata’ of the plants. With sensors placed on leaves he captured the electrical signals from the camellias. These were then converted to midi signals and thereafter generated into music and sounds.

Jason was surprised by the depth of his emotions during the project, at times feeling physically unwell, as well as suffering from anxiety and agitation upon listening to the plants.

He gives an evocative voice to the plants, a sound enhanced as musicians on xylophone and harp responded to the plant sounds and added their interpretation.

Where once visitors walked quickly and disinterested through the Camellia House, during the installation they sat, listened and contemplated.

Hopefully many will have added their thoughts to the sight and music before them. Through the melancholic, entrancing tones Jason Singh wanted to stimulate feelings within visitors about the plants, environment, our place in the world as well as conservation and people’s wellbeing. Furthermore, he hoped to raise questions and exploration of our inner selves and our global position within the natural world. In the process, he unexpectedly tapped into his soul and undoubtedly others experienced the same whilst listening to this most original musical installation.

A final word. I had meant to visit this installation last spring but for obvious reasons this was not possible. However, it’s a joy to finally be able to share about it here on my blog!

A CITY’S FESTIVE TRANSFORMATION

I’ve been wary of anything that describes itself as a Winter Wonderland after my first foray to such a themed event over ten years ago. Then my family and I ended up wandering around a few sad small shacks of glitter in a mud pit of fields!

When friends suggested I join them at the Winter Wonderland in Nottingham recently I hesitated, and said I’d think about it. In other words I needed to check it out online first!

Yeah! No mud or fields in sight! Rather the website promised a glittering array of lights, bars, and over 70 stalls! The largest such event in the Midlands.

On the day of our arrival, we headed to centre of town and just as dusk fell around four I was struck first by the colourful Christmas tree lights.

As we approached the main square the cacophony of voices hit us, one moment the quiet city centre streets, then magically transported to a fairy-tale Christmas market. The crowd was deep and slow-moving, not that I minded in the least as I spun around, scanning the festivities.

There was a large ice-rink, a helter-skelter, carousel and toboggan ride! Plus much more! Food stalls served dishes from across Europe and of course, there were the bars galore, including an ice-bar!

Photo from https://www.visit-nottinghamshire.co.uk/

The market stalls offered a variety of goods including jewellery, ornaments, art and fashion. As it was a cold night I bought myself a hat. The first bobble hat I’ve had since a child and it felt snug and warm on my head! My friends laughed at my acquisition – good-naturedly, I hope!

Although we were sorely tempted by the drinks on offer we had another destination in mind, ‘The Alchemist’ cocktail bar. How could we resist their tantalising sales pitch:

“We’re masters in the dark arts of molecular mixology and demons in the kitchen. Our mixologists create every cocktail with an obsessive eye for detail, presented in vessels orchestrated to add a devilish dash of theatre, they bedazzle, bewitch and set the scene for everything we do.”

I was enraptured by the artistry of the staff, magicians of wondrous concoction, mine a smoking mixture which could not be rested on the table until the vapours subsided. Only then was I allowed to pour it into the specially prepared glass! I had a SMOKEY NUMBER 2 which consisted of a heady selection of ‘Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum, Winter Sugars, Apple, Smoke, Cinnamon. Hard To Put Down’. I can asssure you I only had the one drink, here I’m holding my friend’s flask as well.

I loved every wicked and fiery sip! Let’s just say there wasn’t a second one!

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating this Thursday! Happy First Advent to those who mark the day on Sunday. Above all else wishing everyone a joyful and peaceful time before Christmas!

Note: Unless stated all photos are ©Annika Perry.